What to do when you're hungry, but on a diet.

It's 8 PM. You're hungry and want a snack, but you have 10 more pounds to lose. You've told yourself that this time is going to be different, but your stomach isn't buying it. You want to eat, but you're on a diet.

What do you do? It's a tricky situation, I know.

If you're hungry but on a diet, do these three things: stop restricting food and start eating; figure out what kind of hunger you are experiencing; and practice getting comfortable with a little hunger.

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Step 1. Stop Starving, Stop Restricting, and Start Eating

When it comes to losing weight, there's an odd paradox.

To eat less, you need willpower, but you also need to eat to have willpower.

You see, we only have so much willpower. Every choice you make during the day, from whether or not to eat a snack at work to what time you'll go to bed tonight, uses willpower. And nothing drains willpower faster than going through the day and making all those decisions with little or no food.

We all know that if you want to lose weight, you have to eat less than you eat now, but not eating for hours on end doesn't help. At first glance, skipping meals might seem like the fastest way to lose weight, but the truth is that it's not true at all.

Don't believe me? Okay, here's a simple test:

Do you think that if you're starving at dinner time, you'll have more or less self-control to eat what you want? 

The fact of the matter is that if you go hungry all day, you're setting yourself up for failure at night. We don't get bonus points for using heroic willpower to struggle through the day, so why not make things easier on yourself?

My advice? The best way to avoid getting into a cycle of dieting and overeating is to never get into it. And the best way to stay away from it is to make sure you eat regularly.

If you think skipping meals can help you lose weight faster, you may be right. But take it from an expert weight-loss coach who's helped thousands get fit since 2007...

People who skip meals all day and hope they will be strong enough to make it through quickly find out that they've made a terrible mistake.

You need to eat to have willpower, so stop restricting yourself and start eating more regularly.

Before we get to Step 2, I wanted to say that you might want to check out this video of Haley and I sharing our best tips in "What To Do When You're Hungry, But On A Diet."


Step 2. Figure Out if You Are Hungry or Having a Craving

When you feel those familiar pangs in your stomach, ask yourself, "Am I really hungry, or am I just craving something?" And believe me, there is a difference.

Let's start with cravings.

A craving is a very intense and powerful feeling. One minute, you think you "might" like to have something to eat. And the next minute, you've opened the bag of chips and are downing handful after handful of the greasy crumbs—despite knowing they're not doing anything good for you.

When you have a craving, you feel like an outside force is controlling you and making you eat what it wants, not what you want.

So what is a craving? It's a strong desire for something specific.

Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on slowly. Your stomach starts to grumble, you feel like you have no energy, and you might even get a slight headache. Physical hunger is that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach that gets worse as time goes on.

Arguably, the biggest difference between physical hunger and a craving is that with physical hunger, you don't have an intense craving for a specific food; any food will do.

So here's the question:

Are you really hungry, or do you crave a particular food?

If you are really hungry, the answer is to eat something. But, if you say you have a craving, the solution is to figure out what is making you want to eat by breaking down what you are feeling at that moment. Is it boredom? Are you worried about something? Do you need some kind of reward for reaching a goal?

When you figure out why you have a craving, then you can do something about it.

And if you need help figuring out what to do about your cravings, you can join our daily one-on-one coaching program, where we help you every day until you beat the reasons driving you to eat.

Step 3. Realize That It's Okay to Feel Hungry

People usually think that hunger is either on or off. Either they are hungry, or they aren't. But hunger isn't on or off like a light switch. Think of it instead as a dimmer, where you can adjust your hunger to the level that makes you feel most comfortable.

What if I told you that the best way to lose weight is not to avoid feeling hungry but to learn to be at peace with it and make it work for you?

In reality, hunger is a natural part of life that we can easily learn to live with. Because even though we're physically dependent on food, it doesn't mean we have to be psychologically dependent on it.

By using some simple tips and tricks, we can learn how to live easily and comfortably while hungry. The Hunger Scale is a very helpful tool we use in our online program to help people lose weight.

Here is how it works:

Imagine a scale with the numbers 1 through 5. On the scale, 1 means that you are starving, and 5 means that you are full. When you use The Hunger Scale to quantify what you're feeling, "hunger" goes from being a feeling to a number you can actually measure.

And when you assign hunger a value, it's much easier to avoid being either too hungry (a 1) or too full (a 5). A happy place to be on the scale is at a 3. This is where you feel satisfied, light, and like you can easily go for a walk. And this is what we really want, right? We want to feel light and full of energy.

Don't avoid hunger. Measure it and learn to be at peace with a bit of hunger. And best of all, make it work for you.


When you're hungry and trying to stick to a diet, it can feel impossible to resist temptation. So, don't be hard on yourself for failing. Instead, I want you to change how you think about and react to hunger. And you can do this by eating more often, figuring out if you're really hungry, and learning how to use hunger instead of trying to avoid it.

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